Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: The growing threat of the biomass energy industry


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Update – good news on legislation!

We need to understand the insidious, growing threat of the biomass energy industry, specifically forest-based bioenergy. Bioenergy turns forests into electricity, liquid biofuels, and fuel pellets for export on the international market. Touted as renewable, it is not clean, renewable or carbon neutral. It is devastating to human health and communities, to forests, watersheds, and wildlife habitat, and only worsens the climate crisis.

Golden State Natural Resources (GSNR) plans to build two massive fuel pellet processing plants in Tuolumne and Lassen counties, targeting 1 million tons of wood pellets per year for export, via the port of Stockton, to Europe and Asia. On June 30, 2023, 109 organizations, including scientists, doctors, environmentalists and others, wrote to GSNR vehemently opposing the project because of its potential impacts to climate, communities, and forests.

On February 28, 2024, GSNR ratified an MOU with the giant UK energy company Drax, the second largest biomass energy company in the world. Drax already runs 18 fuel pellet plants in the USA and Canada. Now it is targeting California, which has 33 million acres of forests.

In a shocking exposé of Drax in October 22, the BBC revealed that Drax is responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of mature and old growth trees in Canada and southeast USA. The company’s assertions that it uses only waste wood were proven to be false. Drax is by far the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK. It is subsidized by UK taxpayers to the tune of around £1.4 billion (about $1.8 billion) in subsidies up until last year.

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Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags ,

Satellites detect no real climate benefit from 10 years of forest carbon offsets in California

Shane Coffield and James Randerson, THE CONVERSATION

Many of the companies promising “net-zero” emissions to protect the climate are relying on vast swaths of forests and what are known as carbon offsets to meet that goal.

On paper, carbon offsets appear to balance out a company’s carbon emissions: The company pays to protect trees, which absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The company can then claim the absorbed carbon dioxide as an offset that reduces its net impact on the climate.

However, our new satellite analysis reveals what researchers have suspected for years: Forest offsets might not actually be doing much for the climate.

When we looked at satellite tracking of carbon levels and logging activity in California forests, we found that carbon isn’t increasing in the state’s 37 offset project sites any more than in other areas, and timber companies aren’t logging less than they did before.


Posted on Categories Forests, WaterTags , , , , ,

Court halts logging again on Gualala River property


Logging on the Gualala River was halted again last week when a judge ruled in favor of the Friends of the Gualala River and against Cal Fire, the state’s forestry agency.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau halted the planned timber harvest while a legal clash continues over potential environmental damage from the Gualala Redwood Timber (GRT) company’s plan to selectively log about 350 acres of mature redwoods on its property known as “Dogwood.”

The Dogwood logging plan “is distinguished by the unprecedented extent of logging over hundreds of acres along miles of floodplains that include special habitats for steelhead, salmon, and protected rare plants, wetlands, and wildlife,” said Friends of the Gualala Redwoods in a media announcement of the court decision. It “also contains some of the largest, oldest and most mature redwood stands left in the Gualala River flats.”

Chouteau’s decision marks the second time in two years that Friends of the Gualala River (FoGR) has won a court order to halt GRT logging in the 100-year-old forest near the Gualala River estuary.

Two years ago Friends of Gualala River, Forest Unlimited, and the California Native Plant Society prevailed in a lawsuit against Cal Fire’s approval of GRT’s first Dogwood logging plan.

The first Cal Fire permit was vacated last year after Chouteau ruled that, in approving the timber harvest plan, Cal Fire had violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Chouteau gave Cal Fire the opportunity to fix and resubmit the logging plan to comply with CEQA. GRT submitted an amended version of the plan late last year.

Friends of Gualala again sued Cal Fire over the new plan, alleging it had “essentially the same CEQA and Forest Practices Act violations that it found in the first version of the plan,” said the group’s attorney Edward Yates.


Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Rejuvenated by fire

Sonoma Ecology Center

All around the Valley now, we’re seeing new sprouts from the branches and roots of fire-scarred oaks, madrones, toyons, and coyote brush. Grasses have transformed blackened ground to bright kelly green. (The photo above shows beargrass rising from its roots in the chaparral on Arrowhead Mountain.) And fire followers – native flowers that germinate after wildfire – are close behind.

In other words, the Valley is doing what it’s done for countless centuries after a fire. Given this swift regeneration, what can we do to help burned land?

The answer is simple. When it comes to burned areas that are away from roads, ditches, and buildings, most often the best response is just to watch and be amazed. The land is glad for these fires and knows how to respond. In these areas, our urge to “clean up” – in particular by cutting trees – can make the situation worse by leading to soil erosion and landslides. And putting equipment, vehicles, or too much foot traffic onto burned soils will crush germinating plants and compact the fluffy soil. That’s why we’re advising all Sonoma Valley property owners: PLEASE DO NOT CUT YOUR BURNED TREES unless they pose a risk to life or property. Most will grow back from branches or roots, and the ones that don’t will serve as important native habitat. This is especially true of redwoods and of native hardwoods such as oaks, manzanitas, and madrones.

There are exceptions. Burned Douglas fir, or non-native trees such as eucalyptus and some conifers, may well need to come down. We also understand that some landowners may face irresistible pressure from insurance to cut and remove burned trees, even those that would recover.

Here are some ways to help the land now:

If you own Sonoma Valley property with burned man-made structures on it, please contact us right away. With your permission, our Emergency Watershed Protection Program will organize volunteers to isolate toxic ash and debris so it doesn’t wash away this winter to pollute the Valley’s soil or streams.

Another beneficial activity is to pinch off all but two or three of the sprouts on trees and shrubs, which will then grow faster with less crowding. And, if you steward land where invasive weeds like Himalayan blackberry or French broom burned, this could be a crucial time to make progress by keeping these invaders trimmed back until newly germinating natives can establish.

You can also observe and record the fascinating changes on your land or public land. For example, set up a nature camera, as Sonoma filmmaker Tim Wetzel did on behalf of Sonoma Ecology Center, and create time-lapse footage to watch the landscape turn from ashen to green. Water monitoring and bird watching are other options – contact us for help on any “citizen science” project you have in mind.


Please help us spread the word on this important message!